Who really ran the games? 1936 - ATTIC Theatre Company exposes political turmoil at the Berlin Olympics

Posted: 8th March 2012

They say you should never talk about politics while in social situations, not least in the pub, which might be why sports is discussed at great length, not least by passionate football fans forever jaded by their team's hopeless weekend performances, overpaid egos and the deterioration of the 'beautiful game'. Previously, athletics and other track and field eventing hasn't had much of an airing within bars, clubs and boozers for quite some time, until London was awarded the challenge of hosting the 2012 Olympics. Now, for whatever reason, all five senses are either excited or irritated by its very name.

In the 1930's however, politics AND sport were very much on every Brit's conversation-agenda. The Nazis were strengthening their grip on Europe and by 1933, Hitler's regime was clearly gleeful at having the impending 1936 Olympics on its own doorstep - in Berlin. But, they had a problem, or rather the athletes, organisers and spectators had a problem. Jewish athletes were treated appallingly by Hitler's cronies, prompting justifiable talk of a boycott. In the build-up to these Olympic Games in 1936, civil rights became a battle of ethics.

Tom McNab's earthy play deals with that preparatory period in the run-up to the opening ceremony and beyond. As athletes like Jesse Owens (the '30s Usain Bolt, minus the silly Branson mock-up) wavered at competing, while influential and powerful people were making tough decisions. The human-rights situation then has also been repeated in more recent years - Mexico in 1968, Beijing just four years ago - but with Nazism threatening the world, the stakes were undeniably high.

The Lilian Baylis Studios (part of Sadler's Wells) will host this evocative play and follow-up discussions after each performance, from 18th July until 5th August. Tickets cost from £25 to £32 (less for concessions) and are on sale now.

Paul Pledger